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Nuclear Non-Prolifration: Review Conference

Volume 413: debated on Tuesday 14 October 1980

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2.51 p.m.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what were the conclusions of the review conference of the Non-Proliferation Treaty held in Geneva, from 11th August to 5th September.

My Lords, The Government regret that the review conference was unable to reach consensus on a final document. But the discussions revealed broad agreement in many important areas and underlined the commitment of the parties to the cause of non-proliferation.

My Lords, would the Minister agree that the result was profoundly disappointing? Did it not arise from the fact that in the original non-proliferation treaty there was a clause stating that the nuclear powers would pursue efforts to secure nuclear disarmament? Have they not instead increased immensely the number of the nuclear arms and increased the power of their destruction a thousand times?

My Lords, I would not agree that the results of the review conference are profoundly disappointing; but I would accept that they were slightly disappointing. None the less, the treaty remains intact. There was no question of withdrawal by any of the 115 parties and five signatories to the treaty, so I think that all is not gloom. However, with regard to the other point made by the noble Lord, it is true that the general efforts at disarmament have not proceeded as fast as we all would have wished. I do not think that even the most starry-eyed signatories to the nonproliferation treaty would have expected us to enter into disarmament agreements which were one-sided or underminded our defence posture.

My Lords, no one is suggesting that. Is not the case that the Soviet Union has repeatedly made proposals for the dismantlement of all nuclear weapons? It is judged to be insincere. If it is thought to be insincere, cannot it be tested by negotiations on their proposals?

My Lords, one of the main difficulties regarding our negotiations with the Soviet Union on this matter is verification. We need to be sure that any measures agreed between the parties at Geneva or elsewhere can be properly verified. So far that is not the case.